by Bruce Noll
This is the short version of what I hope to document fully in the near future. I choose not to compare my life with that of any other human being though I acknowledge having done so (wittingly or unwittingly) for most of this life. At this stage in my experience I am choosing to come to terms with what is, as I currently understand it, in an effort to change the result of the balance of my life by changing my perspective…and behavior.
The background is as follows: I was born into a lower middle class family, the third of three boys to a man and woman who clearly did not know how to get along, parent or enjoy living. This environment had been a source of excuse for me for a very, very long time. It was also the conditioning that I recognized must be undone prior to the necessary reconditioning that is the focus of this journey of mine.
It was easy to blame Mom and Dad for all of the mistakes I made and I probably would have continued doing so had it not been for the intervention of what I will call Spirit, a force which cannot be accurately named, described or measured with any clarity. For the first 40+ years of my life I was quite unaware of the existence and efficacy of this force, internally or externally. For brevity here, I will move on without further explanation.
I struggled emotionally for the majority of my life with patterns of passive aggressive behaviors that were evident to most people and rarely admitted to by myself. The consequences of my behavior kept me locked in a life of mediocrity saturated for extended periods of time with negativity, despair and hopelessness, all the while pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I got it honestly, as this was the example I saw in the people closest to me in my formative years.
Understanding the origin of these patterns did not begin until I joined the ManKind Project in December of 2014 where I took part in what Mythologist Joseph Campbell described as the “Hero’s Journey.” I too, am grateful for the opportunity to do the “work” that is required to change what I spent a lifetime creating for myself. I have to admit…it’s messy work. I would like to say the work is done, but it does continue and that’s why I’m here, writing this essay.
For much of my 65 years I have dreamed of being something other than who I was or am, and it was so often easy to embellish the story, because there was truth in it, just not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In order to compare myself favorably with those whom I viewed as successfully living the life I wanted to live I had to add something that wasn’t there, not much, but something of an equalizer of sorts.
This fiction created a higher and higher expectation of being and a greater and greater feeling of not being enough. So when the realization occurred that my practice was unsustainable because emotionally I was unable to handle the stress of self delusional thinking, I wanted to fix it and I wanted the world to stop so I could. Guess what? It wouldn’t!
So here I was…a nice guy on the outside to most, moderately successful in his endeavors at times, but mostly an asshole to the people who knew me best, my wives (desperately and unsuccessfully working on my second marriage) and some close family members. Here also was a man who professed to be a positive thinker, an over-achiever and an over-comer! Well, after losing everything in 2001, 1st wife, home, job and family, you would think that’s where the brokenness would end. History does repeat itself. That brings me to the place where I am today.
My current wife says I treat everyone outside of our relationship better than I do her. There is an element of truth in that statement, so the work continues now 14 years after our marriage began. Granted, there is more to this story than meets the eye but I am grateful for being exactly where I am. I’m just not happy or proud of the impact I have had on the people closest to me.
So, this journey has led me into the darkness of who I am, into my shadow. I have met the enemy and he is me. This journey has also led me to some incredibly amazing places of healing and nurturing and I am sure my current path will lead me into the light. Since the journey continues I cannot yet say what the end or outcome is, even though I really want to know…now!
I am trusting that each step I now take will be for my benefit and for the benefit of everyone I touch. My intention is to be authentic, honorable, trustworthy, open and vulnerable. This work of change is messy because I have to be able to look not only into the mirror to see my aging physical body, but more importantly into the mirror of my soul. It is this second vision that causes the journey to be worth it, messy as it can be, as I believe this is where I will see the man I am, the being I am, and I will have to look no further to be the me on the outside that I see on the inside when I look in the mirror of my soul!
by Bruce Noll